Saratoga Race Report: Soaring Once More

Saratoga Race Report: Soaring Once More
Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Farda Amiga, winning the Alabama under jockey Pat Day.
Published in the Aug. 24 issue of The Blood-Horse
All around her in the winner's circle at Saratoga Race Course, the chanting continued. "Fly Farda Amiga. Fly Farda Amiga. Fly Farda Amiga."

At that point, late in the afternoon on Aug. 17, Farda Amiga had already flown past You and Allamerican Bertie in the stretch to win the 122nd Alabama Stakes (gr. I).

Though it was hard for him to be heard amid the noise of the celebration, trainer Paulo Lobo used the opportunity to put the victory in perspective, as well as do a little politicking.

"She's an amazing filly," Lobo said. "I think she proved today that she is the best 3-year-old filly in America. Almost 105 days without a race and to have a sickness after the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and she did very well. She's an amazing filly. She's the best American filly."

Point made. While Farda Amiga's success in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at odds of 20-1 was unexpected, the scenario leading up to the Alabama victory was unusual at best. Still, Lobo, 33, succeeded in preparing the daughter of Broad Brush for the 1 1/4 miles of the $750,000 Alabama off a 3 1/2-month layoff on works alone.

With Bella Bellucci scratched because trainer Neil Drysdale did not like the wet track conditions, Allamerican Bertie was alone on the lead through an opening quarter of :23.88, a half-mile in :47.81, and six furlongs in 1:12.66. Under jockey Pat Day, Farda Amiga was fifth, more than 12 lengths off the pace after a half-mile.

Accelerating on the second turn, Farda Amiga began moving past the competition. First Nonsuch Bay. Then Smok'n Frolic. You, the multiple grade I winner, trying to make a move up the rail under jockey Edgar Prado, was the next to be passed.

Inside the sixteenth pole, Farda Amiga and Day, who was replacing the retired jockey Chris McCarron, overtook Allamerican Bertie. They won by three-quarters of a length in 2:04.68, with Day pumping his right arm in the air after they hit the wire.

"My filly probably just lost to the champion 3-year-old filly," Allamerican Bertie's trainer, Steve Flint, said. "That guy did a fantastic job training her. I don't know anybody else that could have trained a horse to get a mile and a quarter under these conditions."

The moments after Farda Amiga's victory in the Kentucky Oaks touched off a raucous celebration by the filly's Brazilian owners in the winner's circle at Churchill Downs, complete with the "Fly Farda Amiga" routine. The morning after the race, Lobo discovered the filly was ill. She had spiked a temperature and had a high white-blood-cell count.

Farda Amiga stayed in Kentucky for two weeks before flying home to California and spent another two weeks resting in her stall at Hollywood Park. In June, with no chance of having her ready for a prep race, Lobo started working toward the Alabama. He said he was only able to get in five of the seven works he had planned.

The filly, bred by Payson Stud in Kentucky, is owned by the partnership of Brazilian businessmen Marcos Simon and Julio Camargo, and the Kentucky-based bloodstock agent and farm operator Jose DeCamargo, a native of Brazil. Farda Amiga was purchased for $45,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September sale and got her Portuguese name, Friendly Silks, from the blending of Simon's and Camarago's stable names. She was put in the care of Lobo--the son of top Brazilian trainer Selmar Lobo--when he moved to the United States in January 2001.

Unwittingly, veteran California track announcer Trevor Denman provided the foundation for the Farda Amiga chant when he described how she came flying through the stretch in an earlier victory.

Two days before the Alabama, Lobo and the owners were confident the filly would run well. She had handled the flight from California without any problems and seemed comfortable in the stakes barn. Their confidence was shaken the day before the race.

"We were a little bit concerned because the weather knocked her down. It was too hot for her," DeCamargo said. "She was kind of relaxed in the back of her stall. She was a little bit dull. I was concerned. She didn't eat too much. Then she came around."

During the first four weeks of the Saratoga season, the weather was either hot and humid, or hotter and more humid. The afternoon temperatures had exceeded 90 degrees for several days prior to the Alabama.

On the night of Aug. 15 and again the next afternoon, thunderstorms produced downpours, knocking races scheduled for the turf to a muddy main track.

During the early part of the Alabama Day program, track superintendent Jerry Porcelli kept the track sealed in an effort to maintain an even consistency. There was a noticeable speed-favoring bias in the sprints, but closers were able to come from off the pace in the route races.

Porcelli's original plan was to harrow, or "open" the track and let it dry before the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) and the Alabama. Later in the afternoon he said the jockeys told him they were confident riding over the surface that had been upgraded to "good" and decided not change the conditions prior to the two stakes.

About an hour before the Alabama, Drysdale announced he had scratched Bella Bellucci. "We were concerned about the track condition," he said. "She caught a similar track to this one in the Acorn and wound up pulling a muscle behind. We don't want to take the chance of that happening again."

Bella Bellucci was also scratched before the Kentucky Oaks, so she has yet to face Farda Amiga. They might finally go to the starting gate together on Oct. 26 for the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at the World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park. You won't be there. After her second consecutive loss to Farda Amiga and third-place finish in the Alabama, trainer Bobby Frankel said he was giving Edmund A. Gann's filly the rest of the year off.

Lobo said the plan is for Farda Amiga to return to California to prepare for the Distaff. As another hoarse round of "Fly Farda Amiga" was being delivered, he leaned forward to make his case for Farda Amiga being the division leader one more time.

"I think the Kentucky Oaks and the Alabama are the two most important races on the dirt for 3-year-old fillies," he said.

Continued

(Chart, Equibase)

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